Stuart Hall. "What Is This 'Black' in Black Popular Culture?" Social Justice, Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (51-52), Rethinking Race (Spring-Summer 1993), pg. 104-114.

Essentialist understandings of “Blackness” and race present it as something as biological and universal. Although, certain scholars propose “strategic essentialism” (Guthrie Ramsey, "The Pot Liquor Principle: Developing a Black Music Criticism in American Music Studies,” American Music, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer 2004), pg. 284-295), In this article, Hall opposes the reliance on essentialism in discussions of black popular culture as it takes racial difference out of its historical, cultural, and political context.


Instead, he argues for a dialogic approach to black popular culture which recognizes the mutual influences of black and white cultures on each other and the possibility that black expression had become “popular” within white hegemony.

By looking at race dialogically, he eschews questions like “what it means to ‘act black’” because one black experience does not exist. Instead Hall allows for the possibility of individuals to act both Black and British (for instance).


If you can recognize the dialogic influences on black and white culture on one another, Hall extends that argument to say that the  the distinctions between high and low art do not actually exist. This argument reminds me of the work of Paul DiMaggio, ("Cultural entrepreneurship in nineteenth-century Boston, Part I: The creation of an organizational base for high culture in America," Media, Culture and Society (U.K.) 4, 1 [Winter], 1982) who writes about the separation of Highbrow/Lowbrow at the turn of the century (like Lawrence Levine), but also about how those distinctions disappeared by the mid-twentieth century. In TV By Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television, for instance, Lynn Spigel argues that early television (usually understood as “low culture”) actually incorporated a number of high-art elements as broadcasters such as CBS attempted to infuse their programs with the latest modernist architecture, art, and design to give television a “high” “visual medium.”